The University of Central Florida announced last week that it is suspending most fraternity and sorority activities while an investigation proceeds into two Greek groups for alleged violation of rules against hazing and alcohol abuse, The Orlando Sentinel reported. Many students in the fraternity and sorority systems are complaining about the move, but university officials said it was necessary to send a message. In the last three years, the university has found violations of hazing rules three times and of alcohol rules 13 times.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The University of Pennsylvania will this week announce major gifts to support a new international strategy for the institution, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Penn plans to create a "world house" in 2015 through which world leaders and Penn faculty members will work to tackle major global problems. Each year, a new problem will be selected. While Penn does not plan to start branch campuses abroad, it is preparing to open a center in China for a range of activities, including faculty research and interviewing applicants.
Lincoln Memorial University last week told 13 faculty members, one of whom had taught at the university for 18 years, that their contracts would not be renewed after this academic year, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported. The job cuts are being made because of projected decreases in enrollment next year. The university's graduate education programs have enrolled many students from Georgia -- educators eligible for raises if they complete certain degrees. Georgia has changed its rules such that completing the programs at Lincoln Memorial will no longer make people eligible for raises. Lincoln Memorial does not have tenure, so faculty members work on year-to-year contracts.
The College Humor website has announced the winners of its $5,000 Average Student Scholarships. The biographies of winners won't be confused for those who receive Rhodes Scholarships. One winner was lauded this way: "His G.P.A. of 2.083 barely hovers over the disgraceful 1.9, and one more misstep would send him tumbling down a cliff that'd be hard to climb out of." Another was praised for her culinary habits. "In her sad and slightly disturbing video entry, Jordan munches on a brick of uncooked Ramen like that's something normal people actually do." More information on the award winners may be found here.
Some of the students most often targeted in the push to use online learning to increase college access are less likely than their peers to benefit from -- and may in fact be hurt by -- digital as opposed to face-to-face instruction, new data from a long-term study by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College suggest.
"Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas," by Di Xu and Shanna Smith Jaggars, researchers at the center, examines the performance of nearly 40,000 Washington State community college students who took both online and on-ground courses, and finds significant differences in how various subgroups performed. Students of all types completed fewer courses and achieved lower grades online than they did in face-to-face classes, men, African-Americans, and academically underprepared students had the biggest gaps between the two mediums.
The performance of adult students was mixed: they completed slightly more courses online, but achieved slightly lower grades in them than they did in on-ground courses.
A white paper from HCM Strategists released today -- the latest in a series of reports on redesigning the federal financial aid system sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- calls for simplifying the federal student aid programs into one grant, one loan and one tax credit aimed at nontraditional students, as well as investing in research and pilot programs to further improve student aid. The report, written by several financial aid experts, would also redefine full-time status as 15 credits per semester rather than 12, in an effort to provide incentives to students to complete college, and base repayment for all student loans on borrowers' incomes.
The report accompanies an earlier white paper from the public policy consulting group stating broad principles for redesigning federal financial aid.
James Beckwith, formerly interim president and chief financial officer of Southern Vermont College, killed himself Wednesday, with federal authorities charging that he embezzled $440,000 while serving as interim president, The Bennington Banner reported. Beckwith resigned suddenly as CFO this month, apparently when the college learned of the allegations. Authorities said that he took college money while serving as interim president. A statement on the college's website expressed condolences to Beckwith's family and said: "This is a difficult and sad time for all who knew Jim. His many contributions to our community will be remembered."
Northwestern University has appointed a panel of professors to review the history of John Evans, one of the university's founders, and his links to a massacre of Native Americans. Several professorships are named for Evans, as is the city of Evanston, where Northwestern is located. Evans was governor of the Colorado Territory (after the university's founding) at the time of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre of Native Americans, and many Indian students and others question the appropriateness of honoring him at the university. The committee -- a mix of professors from Northwestern and elsewhere -- will study the role Evans played in the massacre, and "whether any financial support for Northwestern from Evans could be attributed to wealth he obtained as a result of policies and practices he pursued while territorial governor regarding the Native American populations there."
New data from the Association of American Medical Colleges show that while there has been diversification of the medical school student body, not all groups are showing the same kinds of gains. The percentage of medical school applicants who are white continues to fall (down 26 percent in the last three decades) such that 55 percent of 2011 applicants were white. Another 20 percent are Asian. Just over 7 percent of applicants were black. AAMC noted as an area of concern the gender split among black applicants, where 65 percent of first-time applicants are women. Other racial groups have much more gender balance.